MOSCOW, October 19 (Itar-Tass) — Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has prepared a draft government resolution on the rules of financing of environment protection activities in the Baikal natural territory.
The draft resolution, it is said on the ministry website, regulates the allocation of federal funds for co-financing of the Irkutsk region’s spending. The Ministry of Natural Resources has sent to the Finance Ministry a proposal on the redistribution of budget appropriations in the amount of 70 million roubles. At the same time the co-financing from the Irkutsk region is envisaged in the volume of at least 5 percent of total sum of the transfer.
The funds will be spent on activities aimed at sanitation and cleaning services in Lake Baikal and the adjacent territories. With these funds is also planned to liquidate oil pollution in the Angara River after prolonged leakage of petroleum products from oil-fuel tanks of Bread-Baking Plant No. 1 in Irkutsk, which became a focus of groundwater pollution.
It is said in an explanatory note to the document that “an analysis of visiting in 2011 of the central zone of the Baikal natural territory in the Irkutsk region area revealed a manifold increase in the tourist flow.” The significantly increased anthropogenic stress on the unique ecosystem of Lake Baikal has sharply aggravated the problem of waste.
In order to improve the environmental situation in the region the reclamation of existing unauthorised dumps will be carried out, the collection and disposal of waste and its recycling will be organised.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the authorised state bodies exercise control over the use of the funds for the intended purpose.
According to the ministry’s website, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation (Minprirody of Russia) is a federal executive authority performing functions of public policy making and statutory regulation in the field of the study, use, renewal, and conservation of natural resources, including the subsoil, water bodies, forests located in designated conservation areas, fauna and their habitat, in the field of hunting, hydrometeorology and related areas, environmental monitoring and pollution control, including radiation monitoring and control, and functions of public environmental policy making and implementation and statutory regulation, including issues of production and consumption waste management (hereinafter waste), conservation areas, and state environmental assessment.
The RF Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment shall organise and, within the limits of its authority, ensure compliance with the obligations arising from international agreements of the Russian Federation on matters, which fall within the scope of activity of the Ministry.
Lake Baikal is the world’s oldest at 30 million years old and deepest lake with an average depth of 744.4 metres. Located in the southern Russian region of Siberia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryatia Republic to the southeast, it is the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world, containing roughly 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water.
The lake, called “the Pearl of Siberia,” drew investors from the tourist industry as energy revenues sparked an economic boom. Viktor Grigorov’s Grand Baikal in Irkutsk is one of the investors, who planned to build three hotels creating 570 jobs. In 2007, the Russian government declared the Baikal region a special economic zone. The popular resort of Listvyanka is home to the seven-story Hotel Mayak. At the northern part of the lake Baikalplan (a German NGO) built together with Russians in 2009 the Frolikha Adventure Coastline Track a 100 km long-distance trail as example for a sustainable development of the region. Baikal was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. Rosatom plans to build a laboratory in Baikal, in conjunction with an international uranium plant and to invest $2.5 billion in the region and create 2,000 jobs in the city of Angarsk.
Russian oil pipelines state company Transneft was planning to build a trunk oil pipeline that would have come within 800 metres (2,600 ft) of the lake shore in a zone of substantial seismic activity. Environmental activists in Russia, Greenpeace, Baikal pipeline opposition and local citizens were strongly opposed to these plans, due to the possibility of an accidental oil spill that might cause significant damage to the environment. According to the Transneft’s president, numerous meetings with ordinary citizens were held in towns along the route, especially in Irkutsk. However, it was not until Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the company to consider an alternative route 40 kilometres (25 mi) to the north to avoid such ecological risks that Transneft agreed to alter its plans. Transneft has since decided to move the pipeline away from Lake Baikal, so that it will not pass through any federal or republic natural reserves. Work began on the pipeline, two days after President Putin agreed to changing the route away from Lake Baikal.